Hans Karow guards his old meter with locks and a sign because he doesn’t want to switch to the new smart meter, which B.C. Hydro plans to install by the end of 2012.

By Wade Paterson – Kelowna Capital News

Published: August 04, 2011

B.C. Hydro plans to have smart meters installed in every West Kelowna home by the end of 2012.

The initiative will aim to replace existing meters with a modern, fully integrated, smart metering system as part of B.C. Hydro’s electricity system infrastructure upgrades.

But not everyone is happy about the change.

The B.C  Green Party  has publicly criticized the meters, stating that they will expose people to electromagnetic radiation.

During a news conference on Wednesday, July 27, party leader Jane Sterk said that the World Health Organization has cited electromagnetic radiation as a possible carcinogen.

Una St. Clair, executive director of the Citizens for Safe Technology Society, said that B.C. Hydro’s smart meter project will significantly harm individuals in their own homes.

“B.C. Hydro has no right to take away people’s safety and security within their own home,” said St. Clair.

“The home is a sanctuary. When it’s poisoned, it’s no longer a sanctuary.”

St. Clair said that the smart meter is a wireless device, which sends signals out in milliseconds.

“The signals are pulse modulated radiation, so microwave radio frequency radiation,” said St. Clair.

“It’s similar to having an iPhone strapped to the side of your house, sending signals in tiny bursts of milliseconds throughout the day and night.

“It’s linked to a collector box, which is a bigger type of smart meter, that is collecting signals that are being sent from the different houses and locations all around.

“Then that taps into what we call the wireless smart grid, which is a grid of microwave radio frequency radiation over each community, that is collecting and then passing on the data.”

Since B.C. Hydro announced that it would move ahead with the $930-million plan to install smart meters on two million homes and businesses in April 2011, many have also been concerned about privacy.

“If you can imagine getting a real snapshot of how people are using certain devices and appliances, and how that kind of marketing data could be packaged and sold, that’s some of the concerns that I’ve seen about privacy,” said St. Clair.

According to St. Clair, this program will directly affect some people’s health.

“Some people who are electro-hyper sensitive have disruptions of the physical system—headaches, dizziness, nausea, heart (problems), insomnia and tinnitus—when they’re around wireless devices.

“Those people specifically are now severely challenged by being unable to stop an involuntary exposure in their own home.”

St. Clair said that she is concerned about the environment as well.

“The spikes of energy are in milliseconds and the spiking of energy goes through every living thing,” she said.

“Scientists are telling us that this kind of spiking of microwave radio frequency radiation, carrying the information as it goes through the human body, has the ability to disrupt cellular communication and normal functioning of the cell.”

People who do not want the smart meter on their property do have options. But, in most cases, they’re expensive options.

“There are some things that people can do. They can go off grid, which was the first response that we received from B.C. Hydro. (B.C. Hydro) states that if you don’t want a wireless meter on your house, you can personally pay to move the wireless meter off your house and put it on a pole or other meter stand,” St. Clair said.

“The prices we’re being quoted for doing this, for an average house, is anywhere from $3,000 to $12,000.”

But B.C. Hydro claims that the new smart meter program has several advantages.

On its web site, B.C. Hydro writes that the smart meter signals are short, infrequent and will last less than one minute per day.

The website states that the exposure to radio frequency from a smart meter, over its entire 20-year life span, is equivalent to a single 30 minute cell phone call.

St. Clair said that this is like comparing apples to oranges.

“The signals come out in milliseconds. There are 1,000 milliseconds in a second and 60,000 milliseconds in a minute. If they say the signals total one minute per day, that’s 60,000 signal spikes all day long.”

St. Clair said that change can be made if people join together.

“If our communities, with our elected leaders, join together and say, ‘This is not the way we operate in Canada,’ then this deal would be stopped.”

wpaterson @kelownacapnews.com